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AFCON U-20: Tunisia snatch semifinal spot from Congo’s grasp in penalty shootout

Mohamed Abid’s penalty kick finished off a match that appeared it would never end as Tunisia advanced to the semifinals of the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations by defeating Congo 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout after the two teams played to a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes. Tunisia equalized in the final minutes of extra time before winning on penalties to clinch a semifinal matchup on Monday against Senegal and most importantly a spot at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Despite a hat-trick from star striker Déogracias Bassinga, Congo exit in heartbreaking fashion.

After a quarterfinal round that went without much suspense, Friday’s second match made up for it. An uneventful opening twenty minutes gave way to Bassinga’s opener in the 24th minute when the Diables Noirs forward turned into an empty net after Exauce Nzaou’s excellent run and cross from the left wing. Tunisia found their leveler in the 37th minute through AS Saint-Étienne forward Jibril Othmen who finished from a Rayan Nasraoui cross.

The Video Assistant Referee intervened on two occasions to disallow goals, most notably a header from Tunisia’s Ghaith Ouahabi in the 65th minute after a long delay. Tunisia did eventually take the lead in the 76th minute from an excellent low strike by substitute and Brighton player Samy Chouchane. However there was a reply from Bassinga a few minutes later when he coolly finished after running onto a through pass from Djigo Saïkou.

Extra time did not provide any resolution. VAR intervened to award Congo a penalty kick following a hand ball committed in the Tunisian penalty area by Fradj Ben Njima, resulting in Bassinga dispatching his 102nd minute spot kick with precision. Just when it appeared the Congolese were through to the World Cup it was Tunisia defender Ali Saoudi who headed in a Chouchane corner kick to equalize in the 119th minute.

Penalty kicks were needed to separate the teams and after each team missed one of their first five attempts, a string of three consecutive misses set up Tunisia’s victory. Youssef Snana failed to finish it off after Josna Loulendo’s miss but after Davarel Diambomba Mouandza fired over for Congo to set up Abid’s winning kick.

Highlights are below.

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